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Journal of Translational Medicine
Open Access
Emerging concepts in biomarker discovery; The US-Japan
workshop on immunological molecular markers in oncology
Hideaki Tahara*
, Marimo Sato*
, Magdalena Thurin*
, Ena Wang*
Lisa H Butterfield*
, Mary L Disis

, Bernard A Fox
, Peter P Lee
Samir N Khleif
, Jon M Wigginton
, Stefan Ambs
, Yasunori Akutsu
Damien Chaussabel
, Yuichiro Doki
, Oleg Eremin
Wolf Hervé Fridman
, Yoshihiko Hirohashi
, Kohzoh Imai
James Jacobson
, Masahisa Jinushi
, Akira Kanamoto
, Mohammed Kashani-
, Kazunori Kato
, Yutaka Kawakami

, JohnMKirkwood
Thomas O Kleen
, Paul V Lehmann
, Lance Liotta
, Michael T Lotze
Michele Maio
, Anatoli Malyguine
, Giuseppe Masucci
Hisahiro Matsubara
, Shawmarie Mayrand-Chung
, Kiminori Nakamura
Hiroyoshi Nishikawa
, A Karolina Palucka
, Emanuel F Petricoin
Zoltan Pos
, Antoni Ribas
, Licia Rivoltini
, Noriyuki Sato
Hiroshi Shiku
, Craig L Slingluff
, Howard Streicher
, David F Stroncek
Hiroya Takeuchi
, Minoru Toyota
, Hisashi Wada
, Xifeng Wu
Julia Wulfkuhle
, Tomonori Yaguchi
, Benjamin Zeskind
Yingdong Zhao
, Mai-Britt Zocca
and Francesco M Marincola*
Department of Surgery and Bioengineering, Advanced Clinical Research Center, Institute of Medical Science, The University of Tokyo,
Tokyo, Japan,
Cancer Diagnosis Program, National Cancer Institute (NCI), National Institutes of Health (NIH), Rockville, Maryland, 20852, USA,
Infectious Disease and Immunogenetics Section (IDIS), Department of Transfusion Medicine, Clinical Center and Center for Human
Immunology (CHI), NIH, Bethesda, Maryland, 20892, USA,
Departments of Medicine, Surgery and Immunology, Division of Hematology
Oncology, University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 15213, USA,
Tumor Vaccine Group, Center for Translational
Medicine in Women's Health, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington, 98195, USA,
Earle A Chiles Research Institute, Robert W Franz
Research Center, Providence Portland Medical Center, and Department of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology, Oregon Health and Science
University, Portland, Oregon, 97213, USA,
Department of Medicine, Division of Hematology, Stanford University, Stanford, California, 94305,
Cancer Vaccine Section, NCI, NIH, Bethesda, Maryland, 20892, USA,
Discovery Medicine-Oncology, Bristol-Myers Squibb Inc., Princeton,
New Jersey, USA,
Laboratory of Human Carcinogenesis, Center of Cancer Research, NCI, NIH, Bethesda, Maryland, 20892, USA,
of Frontier Surgery, Graduate School of Medicine, Chiba University, Chiba, Japan,
Baylor Institute for Immunology Research and Baylor Research
Institute, Dallas, Texas, 75204, USA,
Department of Surgery, Graduate School of Medicine, Osaka University, Osaka, Japan,
Section of Surgery,
Biomedical Research Unit, Nottingham Digestive Disease Centre, University of Nottingham, NG7 2UH, UK,
Centre de la Reserche des Cordeliers,
INSERM, Paris Descarte University, 75270 Paris, France,
Sapporo Medical University, School of Medicine, Sapporo, Japan,
Melanoma Clinic,
University of California, San Francisco, California, USA,
Department of Molecular Medicine, Sapporo Medical University, School of Medicine,
Sapporo, Japan,
Division of Cellular Signaling, Institute for Advanced Medical Research, Keio University School of Medicine, Tokyo, Japan,
Cellular Technology Ltd, Shaker Heights, Ohio, 44122, USA,
Department of Molecular Pathology and Microbiology, Center for Applied
Proteomics and Molecular Medicine, George Mason University, Manassas, Virginia, 10900, USA,
Illman Cancer Center, University of Pittsburgh,
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 15213, USA,
Medical Oncology and Immunotherapy, Department. of Oncology, University, Hospital of Siena, Istituto
Toscano Tumori, Siena, Italy,
Cancer Bioimmunotherapy Unit, Department of Medical Oncology, Centro di Riferimento Oncologico, IRCCS,
Aviano, 53100, Italy,
Laboratory of Cell Mediated Immunity, SAIC-Frederick, Inc. NCI-Frederick, Frederick, Maryland, 21702, USA,
Department of Oncology-Pathology, Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, 171 76, Sweden,
The Biomarkers Consortium (BC), Public-Private
Partnership Program, Office of the Director, NIH, Bethesda, Maryland, 20892, USA,
Department of Cancer Vaccine, Department of Immuno-
gene Therapy, Mie University Graduate School of Medicine, Mie, Japan,
Department of Medicine, Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center, UCLA,
Los Angeles, California, 90095, USA,
Unit of Immunotherapy of Human Tumors, IRCCS Foundation, Istituto Nazionale Tumori, Milan, 20100,
Department of Pathology, Sapporo Medical University School of Medicine, Sapporo, Japan,
Department of Surgery, Division of Surgical
Oncology, University of Virginia School of Medicine, Charlottesville, Virginia, 22908, USA,
Cancer Therapy Evaluation Program, DCTD, NCI,
NIH, Rockville, Maryland, 20892, USA,
Cell Therapy Section (CTS), Department of Transfusion Medicine, Clinical Center, NIH, Bethesda,
Maryland, 20892, USA,
Department of Surgery, Keio University School of Medicine, Tokyo, Japan,
Department of Biochemistry, Sapporo
Medical University, School of Medicine, Sapporo, Japan,
Department of Epidemiology, University of Texas, MD Anderson Cancer Center,
Journal of Translational Medicine 2009, 7:45 http://www.translational-medicine.com/content/7/1/45
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Houston, Texas, 77030, USA,
Immuneering Corporation, Boston, Massachusetts, 02215, USA,
Biometric Research Branch, NCI, NIH, Bethesda,
Maryland, 20892, USA and
DanDritt Biotech A/S, Copenhagen, 2100, Denmark
Email: Hideaki Tahara* - tahara@ims.u-tokyo.ac.jp; Marimo Sato* - marimo@ims.u-tokyo.ac.jp; Magdalena Thurin* - thurinm@mail.nih.gov;
Ena Wang* - Ewang@mail.cc.nih.gov; Lisa H Butterfield* - butterfieldl@upmc.edu; Mary L Disis - ndisis@u.washington.edu;
Bernard A Fox - foxb@foxlab.org; Peter P Lee - ppl@stanford.edu; Samir N Khleif - khleif@nih.gov;
Jon M Wigginton - jon.wigginton@bms.com; Stefan Ambs - ambss@mail.nih.gov; Yasunori Akutsu - yakutsu@faculty.chiba-u.jp;
Damien Chaussabel - damienc@baylorhealth.edu; Yuichiro Doki - ydoki@gesurg.med.osaka-u.ac.jp; Oleg Eremin - val.elliott@ulh.nhs.uk;
Wolf Hervé Fridman - herve.fridman@crc.jussieu.fr; Yoshihiko Hirohashi - hirohash@sapmed.ac.jp; Kohzoh Imai - imai@sapmed.ac.jp;
James Jacobson - jacobsoj@mail.nih.gov; Masahisa Jinushi - jinushi@ims.u-tokyo.ac.jp; Akira Kanamoto - kanamoto@ims.u-tokyo.ac.jp;
Mohammed Kashani-Sabet - cascllar@derm.ucsf.edu; Kazunori Kato - kakazu@sapmed.ac.jp; Yutaka Kawakami - yutakawa@sc.itc.keio.ac.jp;
John M Kirkwood - kirkwoodjm@upmc.edu; Thomas O Kleen - thomas.kleen@immunospot.com; Paul V Lehmann - pvl@immunospot.com;
Lance Liotta - lliotta@gmu.edu; Michael T Lotze - lotzemt@upmc.edu; Michele Maio - mmaio@cro.it;
Anatoli Malyguine - malyguinea@mail.nih.hov; Giuseppe Masucci - giuseppe.masucci@ki.se; Hisahiro Matsubara - matsuhm@faculty.chiba-
u.jp; Shawmarie Mayrand-Chung - Mayrands@mail.nih.gov; Kiminori Nakamura - kiminori@sapmed.ac.jp;
Hiroyoshi Nishikawa - nisihiro@clin.medic.mie-u.ac.jp; A Karolina Palucka - karolinp@BaylorHealth.edu;
Emanuel F Petricoin - epetrico@gmu.edu; Zoltan Pos - posz@cc.nih.gov; Antoni Ribas - aribas@mednet.ucla.edu;
Licia Rivoltini - licia.rivoltini@istitutotumori.mi.it; Noriyuki Sato - nsatou@sapmed.ac.jp; Hiroshi Shiku - shiku@clin.medic.mie-u.ac.jp;
Craig L Slingluff - GRW3K@hscmail.mcc.virginia.edu; Howard Streicher - hs30c@nih.gov; David F Stroncek - dstroncek@mail.cc.nih.gov;
Hiroya Takeuchi - htakeuch@sc.itc.keio.ac.jp; Minoru Toyota - mtoyota@sapmed.ac.jp; Hisashi Wada - hwada@gesurg.med.osaka-u.ac.jp;
Xifeng Wu - xwu@mdanderson.org; Julia Wulfkuhle - jwulfkuh@gmu.edu; Tomonori Yaguchi - beatless@rr.iij4u.or.jp;
Benjamin Zeskind - bzeskind@immuneering.com; Yingdong Zhao - zhaoy@mail.nih.gov; Mai-Britt Zocca - mbz@dandrit.com;
Francesco M Marincola* - fmarincola@mail.cc.nih.gov
* Corresponding authors
Supported by the Office of International Affairs, National Cancer Institute (NCI), the "US-Japan
Workshop on Immunological Biomarkers in Oncology" was held in March 2009. The workshop was
related to a task force launched by the International Society for the Biological Therapy of Cancer
(iSBTc) and the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to identify strategies for
biomarker discovery and validation in the field of biotherapy. The effort will culminate on October
2009 in the "iSBTc-FDA-NCI Workshop on Prognostic and Predictive Immunologic Biomarkers in
Cancer", which will be held in Washington DC in association with the Annual Meeting. The purposes
of the US-Japan workshop were a) to discuss novel approaches to enhance the discovery of
predictive and/or prognostic markers in cancer immunotherapy; b) to define the state of the
science in biomarker discovery and validation. The participation of Japanese and US scientists
provided the opportunity to identify shared or discordant themes across the distinct immune
genetic background and the diverse prevalence of disease between the two Nations.
Converging concepts were identified: enhanced knowledge of interferon-related pathways was
found to be central to the understanding of immune-mediated tissue-specific destruction (TSD) of
which tumor rejection is a representative facet. Although the expression of interferon-stimulated
genes (ISGs) likely mediates the inflammatory process leading to tumor rejection, it is insufficient
by itself and the associated mechanisms need to be identified. It is likely that adaptive immune
responses play a broader role in tumor rejection than those strictly related to their antigen-
specificity; likely, their primary role is to trigger an acute and tissue-specific inflammatory response
at the tumor site that leads to rejection upon recruitment of additional innate and adaptive immune
Published: 17 June 2009
Journal of Translational Medicine 2009, 7:45 doi:10.1186/1479-5876-7-45
Received: 2 June 2009
Accepted: 17 June 2009
This article is available from: http://www.translational-medicine.com/content/7/1/45
© 2009 Tahara et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
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Other candidate systemic and/or tissue-specific biomarkers were recognized that might be added
to the list of known entities applicable in immunotherapy trials. The need for a systematic approach
to biomarker discovery that takes advantage of powerful high-throughput technologies was
recognized; it was clear from the current state of the science that immunotherapy is still in a
discovery phase and only a few of the current biomarkers warrant extensive validation. It was,
finally, clear that, while current technologies have almost limitless potential, inadequate study
design, limited standardization and cross-validation among laboratories and suboptimal
comparability of data remain major road blocks. The institution of an interactive consortium for
high throughput molecular monitoring of clinical trials with voluntary participation might provide
cost-effective solutions.
The International Society for the Biological Therapy of
Cancer (iSBTc) launched in collaboration with the USA
Food and Drug Administration (FDA) a task force
addressing the need to expeditiously identify and validate
biomarkers relevant to the biotherapy of cancer [1]. The
task force includes two principal components: a) valida-
tion and application of currently used biomarkers; b)
identification of new biomarkers and improvement of
strategies for their discovery. Currently, biomarkers are
either not available or have limited diagnostic, predictive
or prognostic value. These limitations hamper, in turn,
the effective conduct of biotherapy trials not permitting
optimization of patient selection/stratification (lack of
predictive biomarkers) or early assessment of product
effectiveness (lack of surrogate biomarkers). These goals
were summarized in a preamble to the iSBTc-FDA task
force [1]; the results are going to be reported on October
at the "iSBTc-FDA-NCI Workshop on Prognostic and Pre-
dictive Immunologic Biomarkers in Cancer", which will be
held in Washington DC in association with the Annual
Meeting [2]; a document summarizing guidelines for
biomarker discovery and validation will be generated.
Several other agencies will participate in the workshop
including the National Cancer Institute (NCI), the
National Institutes of Health (NIH) Center for Human
Immunology (CHI) and the National Institutes of Health
Biomarker Consortium (BC).
With the generous support of the Office of International
Affairs, NCI, the "US-Japan Workshop on Immunological
Molecular Markers in Oncology" included, on the US side,
significant participation of the iSBTc leadership, repre-
sentatives from Academia and Government Agencies, the
FDA, the NCI Cancer Diagnosis Program (CDP), the Can-
cer Therapy and Evaluation Program (CTEP), the Cell
Therapy Section (CTS) of the Clinical Center, and the
CHI, NIH. The participation of Japanese and US scientists
provided the opportunity to identify shared or discordant
themes across the distinct immunogenetic background
and the diverse disease prevalence of the two Nations and
compare scientific and clinical approaches in the develop-
ment of cancer immunotherapy.
Primary goal of the workshop was to define the status of
the science in biomarker discovery by identifying emerg-
ing concepts in human tumor immune biology that could
predict responsiveness to immunotherapy and/or explain
its mechanism(s). The workshop identified recurrent
themes shared by distinct human tumor models, inde-
pendent of therapeutic strategy or ethnic background.
This manuscript is an interim appraisal of the state of the
science and advances broad suggestions for the solutions
of salient problems hampering discovery during clinical
trials and summarizes emerging concepts in the context of
the present literature (Table 1). We anticipate deficiencies
in our attempt to fairly and comprehensively portray the
subject. However, through Open Access, we hope that this
interim document will attract attention. We encourage
feed back from readers in preparation of an improved and
comprehensive final document [2]. Thus, we invite com-
ments that can be posted directly in the Journal of Transla-
tional Medicine website and/or interactive discussion
through Knol [3].
Howard Streicher (CTEP, Bethesda, MD, USA) presented
an overview of biomarkers useful for patient selection, eli-
gibility, stratification and immune monitoring. CTEP
sponsors more than 150 protocols each year across many
types of new agents, so that this program is familiar with
the need to prioritize trials selection using biomarkers.
Biomarkers are important for 1) patient selection and
stratification for the best therapy; 2) identification of the
most suitable targets of therapy; 3) measurement of treat-
ment effect; 4) identification of mechanisms of drug
action; 5) measurement of disease status or disease bur-
den and; 6) identification of surrogate early markers of
long-term treatment benefit [1].
Examples of biomarkers predictive of immunotherapy
efficacy (predictive classifiers) [4-7] are telomere length of
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adoptively transferred tumor infiltrating lymphocytes
which is significantly correlated with likelihood of clinical
response [8], serum levels of vascular endothelial growth
factor (VEGF), which are negatively associated with
response of patients with melanoma to high dose inter-
leukin (IL)-2 administration [9] or K-ras mutations that
predict ineffectiveness of cetuximab for the treatment of
colorectal cancer [10]. Recently, the European Organiza-
tion for Research and Treatment of Cancer (EORTC)
reported a signature derived from pre-treatment tumor
profiling that is predictive of clinical response to GSK/
MAGE-A3 immunotherapy of melanoma. The signature
includes the expression of CCL5/RANTES, CCL11/
Eotaxin, interferon (IFN)-, ICOS and CD20 [11,12].
Prognostic biomarkers assess risk of disease progression
independent of therapy and can be used for patient strat-
ification according to likelihood of survival thus simplify-
ing subsequent interpretation of clinical results; examples
include transcriptional signatures such as Oncotype DX or
Mamma Print to stratify breast cancer patients [13]
though their usefulness needs further validation [14].
Korn et al [15] proposed the incorporation of multivariate
predictors such as performance status, presence of visceral
or brain disease and sex to interpret correlations between
response and survival data in early-phase, non-rand-
omized clinical trials. Similarly, body mass and other
parameters could predict individual survival probabilities
and help stratify patients with prostate cancer in rand-
omized phase III trials [16]. Recently, Grubb et al. [17]
described a signaling proteomic signature based on a
comprehensive analysis of protein phosphorylation that
could be used for the stratification of patients with pros-
tate cancer. Guidelines for the identification of potential
classifiers during explorative, high throughput, discovery-
driven analyses were proposed by Dobbin at al. [18]; they
include the assessment of 3 parameters: standardized fold
change, class prevalence, and number of genes in the plat-
Table 1: Emerging biomarkers potentially useful for the immunotherapy of cancer
Biomarker Therapy Disease References
Predictive biomarkers
Telomere length Adoptive therapy Melanoma [8]
VEGF IL-2 therapy Melanoma [9]
CCR5 polymorphism IL-2 therapy Melanoma [161]
Carbonic Anhydrase IX IL-2 therapy Renal Cell Cancer [267,268]

polymorphism Immuno (IL-2)-chemo Melanoma [240]
STAT-1, CXCL-9, -10, -11, ISGs IFN- therapy Several Cancers [182,183]


, IL-6, TNF-a, CCL3, CCL4 IFN- therapy Melanoma [262]

, ICOS, CD20 GSK/MAGE3 vaccine Melanoma [11,12]
IL-6 polymorphism BCG vaccine Bladder Cancer [259]
MFG-E8 GM-CSF/GVAX (pre-clin) Prostate [273,274]
T regulatory cells hTERT pulsed DCs Solid Cancer [275]
K-ras mutation Cetuximab Colorectal Cancer [10]
CCL2, -3, -4, -5 CXCL-9, -10 Preclinical Melanoma [160]
T cell mulifunctionality Preclinical - [41]
SNAIL Preclinical - [43]
Prognostic Biomarkers (useful for patient stratification/data interpretation)
Oncotype DX, Mamma Print - Breast Cancer [13,14]

- Breast Cancer [34]
Korn Score - Prostate Cancer [15]

, IRF-1, STAT-1, ISGs, IL-15, CXCL-9, -10, -11
and CCL5
- Prostate Cancer [254,255]

, IRF-1, STAT-1 - Colorectal Cancer [134]
VEGF - Colorectal Cancer, Nasopharyngeal Ca [141,207]
ARPC2, FN1, RGS1, WNT2 Melanoma [195-197]
Mechanistic/End Point Biomarkers

, IRF-1, STAT-1, ISGs, IL-15, CXCL-9, -10, -11
and CCL5
IL-2 therapy/TLR-7 therapy Melanoma/Basal Cell Cancer [121,126,21]
IRF-1, STAT-1, ISGs, IL-15, CXCL-9, -10, -11 and
Vaccinia virus (Xenografts) Solid tumors [137]
CXCL-9, -10 Herpes simplex virus (syngeneic model) Ovarian CA [166]
18F-FDG localization Anti-CTLA-4 therapy Melanoma [102]
Epitope Spreading DC-based therapy Melanoma [36]
Kinetic regression/growth model [24]
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form used for investigation. Assessment is based on an
algorithm that guides the determination of the adequacy
of sample size in a training set. A web site is available to
assist in the calculations [19].
Analyses performed during or right after treatment can
provide mechanistic explanations of drugs function such
as the intra-tumor effects of systemic interleukin (IL)-2
therapy [20] or local application of Toll-like receptor ago-
nists [21] (mechanistic biomarkers). End point biomark-
ers assure that the expected biological goals of treatment
were reached. Best examples are the immune monitoring
assays performed during active specific immunization
[22,23]. Surrogate biomarkers inform about the effective-
ness of treatment in early phase assessment and help go/
no go decisions about further drug development [1]. This
is important because tumor response rates documented
during phase II trials have not been, with few notable
exceptions, reliable indicators of meaningful survival ben-
efit. The series of phase II trials of cooperative group stud-
ies in North America over the past 35 years have shown
little evidence of impact for single agents, but have identi-
fied benchmarks of outcome that now may be addressed,
including progression at 6 months (18%), and survival at
12 months (25%) that have been unaltered over the inter-
val of the study. These benchmarks may now allow us to
accelerate progress by developing adequately powered
phase II studies that would serve as the threshold for deci-
sion making for new phase III trials [15]. Recently, a new
survival prediction algorithm was proposed; tumor meas-
urement data gathered during therapy are extrapolated
into a two phase equation estimating the concomitant
rate of tumor regression and growth. This kinetic regres-
sion/growth model estimates accurately the ability of
therapies to prolong survival and, consequently, assist as
a surrogate biomarker for drug development [24].
Steps in biomarker discovery
Since the term "biomarker" is used for a wide variety of
purposes, confusion often results when biomarker devel-
opment, validation and qualification are discussed
[7,25,26]. During phase I and II clinical trials that are
meant to establish dose, schedule and drug activity,
biomarkers should primarily show biological effect of the
drug (i.e. demonstrate whether a drug reached its target)
and do not need to be validated as a surrogate equivalent
of long term benefit. As the drug assessment process pro-
ceeds the expectations of a given biomarker grow in paral-
lel. Moving from correlative science to clinically
applicable biomarkers, validation of the marker and the
assay in cohorts need to be performed. At this stage, it is
important to separate data used to develop classifiers from
data used for testing treatment effects. The process of clas-
sifier development can be exploratory, but the process of
evaluating treatments should not be. Ultimately, clinical
qualification of the marker for clinical use should be
based on testing specific hypotheses in prospectively
selected patient populations.
This was emphasized by Nora Disis (University of Wash-
ington, Seattle, WA, USA) who discussed steps in biomar-
ker validation [27]. Referring to work from Pepe et al [28-
31], five phases of biomarker development were
described: 1) pre-clinical exploratory phase that identifies
promising directions; 2) clinical validation in which an
assay can detect and characterize a disease; 3) retrospec-
tive longitudinal validation (i.e. a biomarker can detect
disease at an early stage before it becomes clinically
detectable or has other predictive value); 4) prospective
validation of the biomarker accuracy and 5) testing its use-
fulness in clinical applications to predict clinically rele-
vant parameters. An example of exploratory studies is the
identification of a distinct phenotype of functional T cell
responses and cytokine profiles that distinguish immune
responses to tumor antigens in breast cancer patients [32].
Tumor antigen-specific immune responses in cancer
patients were observed to differ from responses to com-
mon viruses. In particular, a reduced frequency of IFN--
producing CD4 T cells was observed. In this discovery
phase, it may be useful to test pre-clinical models to verify
the strength of an hypothesis [33]. Following the steps of
validation, a retrospective analysis suggested that survival
is associated with development of memory immune
responses [34] or that changes in serum transforming
growth factor (TGF)- values are prognostic in breast can-
cer; an inverse correlation between TGF- levels and
development of immune responses and epitope spreading
during immunotherapy was found to be of clinical signif-
icance. Similar importance of epitope spreading was pre-
viously reported by others in the context of dendritic cell
(DC)-based immunization against melanoma [35-38] or
antigen-specific, epitope-based vaccination [39]. Impor-
tant exploratory findings were reported by Hiroyoshi
Nishikawa (Mie University, Mie, Japan) [40], who
observed a good correlation between antibody and T cell
responses following NY-ESO-1 protein vaccine suggesting
that cellular immune responses could be extrapolated fol-
lowing the simpler to measure humoral responses. A
detection system was developed to identify antibodies
against NY-ESO-1 that was validated by inter-institutional
cross validation. The assay was tested in patients with
esophageal cancer who expressed NY-ESO-1.
Pre-clinical screening for biomarker identification
Studies in transgenic mice shed insights about the kinetics
of activation of vaccine-induced T cells useful for the
design of future monitoring studies. DUC18 transgenic
mice bearing CMS5 tumors were studied. Adoptive T cell
transfer of mERK2-recognizing T cells obtained from mice
2, 4 or 7 days after immunization demonstrated that only
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those obtained 2 days after immunization could control
tumor growth in recipient animals. Cytokine expression
analysis suggested that outcome was correlated with the
breath of the cytokine repertoire produced by the adop-
tively transferred T cells (multi-functionality); the multi-
functionality was time-dependent and was maximal in T
cells harvested 2 days after immunization. Tumor chal-
lenge did not restore multi-functionality while ablation of
T regulatory cells did. Also peptide vaccination rescued
multifunctional T cells in vivo. This pre-clinical model sug-
gests that cytokine secretion panels should be included for
immune monitoring of patients with cancer [41]. Bernard
Fox (Earle A Chiles Research Institute, Portland, OR, USA)
presented a model in which the effect of anti-cancer vacci-
nation was tested in conditions of homeostasis-driven T
cell proliferation in lymphocyte depleted hosts [42]. Lym-
phopenia strongly enhanced the expansion of
T cells in tumor vaccine-draining lymph
nodes which corresponded to higher anti-cancer protec-
tion compared with normal mice. This study suggested
that vaccination could be performed during immune
reconstitution in immunotherapy trials utilizing immune
depletion and that a target T cell phenotype could be used
as a potential mechanistic/end point biomarker. When
the experiments were repeated in mice with established
tumor, depletion of T regulatory cells was required for
therapeutic efficacy. The design of their current clinical
trial translating finding from preclinical studies was dis-
cussed. Yutaka Kawakami (Keio University, Tokyo, Japan)
presented an animal model in which SNAIL expression (a
gene involved in tumor progression) induced resistance of
tumors to immunotherapy (see later) and may represent a
new predictive biomarker of tumor responsiveness to
immune therapy if validated in humans [43].
Validation and standardization of current biomarker
assays – a link to the iSBTc/FDA task force
Lisa Butterfield (University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA,
USA) and Nora Disis summarized validation efforts on
immunologic assay performance and standardization
[22,23,44-49]. This effort is critical to the selection of true
biomarkers over the "noise" of assay variation in order to
have reliable, standardized measures of immune
response. This is a primary focus of one of the two "iSBTc-
FDA Taskforce on Immunotherapy Biomarkers" working
groups. Published guidelines for blood shipment,
processing, timing and cryopreservation were presented
together with examples of standardization of the most
commonly used immune response assays; the IFN- ELIS-
POT, intra-cellular cytokine staining and major histocom-
patiblity multimer staining [45]. Understanding the
cryobiology principles that explain cellular function after
preservation is becoming extremely important as multi-
institutional studies require shipment of specimens across
vast distances often following non-standardized proce-
dures. Recent studies illustrate the potential for improving
the cryopreservation of stem cells. Standardization of cell
processing has led to the study of liquid storage prior to
cryopreservation, validation of mechanical (uncontrolled
rate freezing) freezing, and cryopreservation bag failure
Extensive discussion about assay validation is beyond the
purpose of this report as it was discussed in the previous
related manuscript [1]. However, it is important to
emphasize the proven need for assay standardization with
standard operating procedures utilized by trained techni-
cians (who undergo competency testing), the need for
standard and tracked reagents and controls, and more
broadly accepted, shared protocols which would allow for
better cross-comparisons between laboratories. The guide-
lines of CLIA (Clinical Laboratory Improvements Amend-
ments), which include definitions of test accuracy,
precision, and reproducibility (intra-assay and inter-
assay) and definitions of reportable ranges (limits of
detection) and normal ranges (pools of healthy donors,
accumulated patient samples) are available at the CLIA
website [52]. Butterfield included examples of assay
standardization performed at the University of Pittsburgh
Immunologic Monitoring and Cellular Products Labora-
tory. A good example is the development of potency
assays for the maturation of DCs; recently production of
IL-12p70 was shown to represent a useful marker that
could distinguish between DC obtained from normal
individuals compared to those obtained from individuals
with cancer or chronic infections [53], a similar consist-
ency analysis was reported by others [54]. Use of central
laboratories may help overcome the extensive cost and
effort of this level of standardization [46,55].
The Biomarkers Consortium (BC): A Novel Public-
Private Partnership Leading the Cutting-edge of
Biomarkers Research
Although not active participant in the workshop, the NIH
BC deserves mention because it purposes converge toward
the issue discussed herein and future efforts in biomarker
discovery should taken into account the potential useful-
ness of this NIH initiative. The promise of biomarkers as
indicators to advance and revolutionize many aspects of
medicine has become a reality for researchers in all sectors
of biomedical research. Biomarkers include molecular,
biological, or physical characteristics that indicate a spe-
cific, underlying physiologic state to identify risk for dis-
ease, to make a diagnosis, and to guide treatment [56].
Given the breadth of utility of biomarkers, the importance
of cross-sector and cross-therapeutic research efforts is
inevitable and the BC has taken a first step to implement
this reality. The BC is a unique partnership among FDA,
NIH and Industry, serving the individual missions of each
organization while focusing on biomarkers, an area of
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alignment of the interests of all the consortium's partici-
pants. The mission of the BC is to brings together the
expertise and resources of various partners to rapidly iden-
tify, develop, and qualify potential high-impact biomark-
ers. The Consortium's founding partners are the NIH, the
FDA, and Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of
America (PhRMA). Additional partners represent Center
for Medicare and Medicaid Services, biopharmaceutical
companies and trade organizations, patient and profes-
sional groups, and the public, and partners in all catego-
ries share a common goal- using biomarkers to hasten the
development and implementation of effective interven-
tions for health and fighting disease. The BC was formally
launched in late 2006 to identify and qualify new, quan-
titative biological markers ("biomarkers"), for use by bio-
medical researchers, regulators and health care providers.
Effective identification and deployment of biomarkers is
essential to achieving a new era of predictive, preventive
and personalized medicine. Biomarkers promise to accel-
erate basic and translational research, speed the develop-
ment of safe and effective medicines and treatments for a
wide range of diseases, and help guide clinical practice.
The BC endeavors to discover, develop, and qualify bio-
logical markers or "biomarkers" to support new drug
development, preventive medicine, and medical diagnos-
Operations of the BC are managed by the Foundation for
the NIH (FNIH), a free-standing charitable foundation
with a congressionally-mandated mission to support the
research mission of the NIH. As managing partner, the
FNIH is responsible for coordinating both the funding
and administrative aspects of the BC and staffs the execu-
tive committee, steering committee and project team
members with respect to BC operations.
The Biomarkers Consortium is creating fundamental
change in how healthcare research and medical product
developments are conducted by bringing together leaders
from the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries,
government, academia, and non-profit organizations to
work together to accelerate the identification, develop-
ment, and regulatory acceptance of biomarkers in four key
areas: cancer, inflammation and immunity, metabolic dis-
orders, and neuroscience. Results from projects imple-
mented by the consortium will be made available to
researchers worldwide.
The special case of array technology – A balance in
reproducibility, sensitivity and specificity of genes
differentially expressed according to microarray studies
A discussion about biomarkers relevant to the clinics war-
rants special attention to high-throughput technologies
and, among them, the use of global transcriptional analy-
sis platforms [57,58]. Indeed, in the last decade, microar-
ray technology has arguably offered the most promising
tool for discovery-driven, patient-based analyses and,
consequently, for biomarker discovery [59]. Several pub-
lications claimed that microarrays are unreliable because
list of differentially expressed genes are often not repro-
ducible across similar experiments performed at different
times, with different platforms, and by different investiga-
tors. The FDA has taken leadership in testing such hypoth-
esis through the MicroArray Quality Control (MAQC)
project whose salient results have been recently summa-
rized [57,60]. Comparisons using same microarray plat-
forms and between microarray results were performed
and validated by quantitative real-time PCR. The data
demonstrated that discordance between results simply
results from ranking and selecting genes solely based on
statistical significance; when fold change is used as the
ranking criterion with a non-stringent significant cutoff
filtering value, the list of differentially expressed genes is
much more reproducible suggesting that the lack of con-
cordance is most frequently due to an expected mathe-
matical process [57]. Moreover, comparison of identical
sample expression profile performed on different com-
mercial or custom-made platforms at different test sites
yielded intra-platform consistency across test sites and
high level of inter-platform qualitative and quantitative
concordance [58,61]. Quantitative analyses of gene
expression comparing array data with other quantitative
gene expression technologies such as quantitative real-
time PCR demonstrated high correlation between gene
expression values and microarray platform results [62];
discrepancies were primarily due to differences in probe
sequence and thus target location or, less frequently, to
the limited sensitivity of array platforms that did not
detected weakly expressed transcripts detectable by more
sensitive technologies. The conclusion, however, was that
microarray platforms could be used for (semi-)quantita-
tive characterization of gene expression. When one-color
to two color platforms were compared for reproducibility,
specificity, sensitivity and accuracy of results, good agree-
ment was observed. The study concluded that data quality
was essentially equivalent between the one- and two-color
approaches suggesting that this variable needs not to be a
primary factor in decisions regarding experimental micro-
array design [63].
Raj Puri (FDA, Bethesda, MD, USA), suggested that, the
consistency and robustness of high throughput technol-
ogy, particularly, in the area of transcriptional profiling
can be used to evaluate product quality particularly when
tissue, cells or gene therapy products are proposed for
clinical utilization and potential licensing; these materials
may display a consistent phenotype based on standard
markers but display different genetic characteristics when
examined at the global level. Several examples are emerg-
ing that may affect the interpretation of data on cellular
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products adoptively transferred to patients. David Stron-
cek (CTS, NIH, Bethesda, Maryland, USA) [64] showed
that different maturation schemes of DCs or stem cells
bear quite different results in their transcriptional pheno-
type even when similar agents are used [65-68]. Similar
work has been reported by the FDA on stem cell character-
ization [69-71]; same principles were followed to address
assay reproducibility in freeze and thaw cycles [72] or
changes in culture conditions [73]. By using this valida-
tion approaches it will be hopefully possible to enhance
the quality of potency assessment for cellular products
[64]; this will provide consistency across clinical protocols
performed in different institutions and may facilitate
identification of novel clinically-relevant biomarkers.
With this purpose, the FDA as developed a web site offer-
ing guidance for pharmacogenomic data submission [74-
Novel monitoring approaches
Monitoring of tumor specific immune responses to
undefined antigens
Some vaccine-therapies target whole proteins or cell
extracts which have the advantage of exposing the
immune system to a broader antigenic repertoire. How-
ever, it is difficult to verify whether antigen-specific
responses were elicited by the vaccine since the relevant
antigen is often not known. For instance, the utilization of
GVAX against prostate follows surrogate end points such
as prostate-specific antigen levels or doubling time [77].
However, it is difficult to characterize the immune
response because strong allo-reactions are generated by
the foreign cancer cells and no clear antigen relevant to
the autologous tumor is known. Thus, monitoring strate-
gies need to be designed for these situations. Fox sug-
gested the screening of pre- and post-vaccination sera
looking for developing antibodies. This could be done
with commercially available protein arrays that allow
screening of thousand of proteins. Indeed, increased pros-
tate-specific antigen doubling time correlates with
immune responses toward a limited number of tumor-
associated antigens. At the same time, T cell responses can
be monitored following antigen presentation by autolo-
gous antigen presenting cells fed with proteins identified
by the analysis of sera on protein arrays. Since it is
unknown whether the immune responses are targeting
antigens expressed by vaccine, but not tumor, circulating
tumor cells might be used to examine whether specific
antigens were expressed by tumor.
Anti cytotoxic T lymphocyte antigen (CTLA)-4 antibodies
have been used in hundreds of patients confirming a low
but reproducible response rate of about 10%. Most
responses, however, are long term and 20 to 30% are asso-
ciated with severe autoimmune toxicities. There is a criti-
cal need to understand the mechanism(s) leading to
response and/or toxicity. Antoni Ribas (UCLA, Los Ange-
les, CA, USA) described the characterization of immune
responses during anti-CTLA-4 therapy. Following guide-
lines to define assay accuracy as suggested by Fraser
[78,79], careful analyses were performed taking into
account technical (different protocols), analytical (same
procedure, variations in replicates) and physiological
(same person, different results over time) sources of vari-
ance. A true response was defined as a value above the
Mean+3SD normal controls [80,81]. With these stringent
criteria, neither expansion nor decrease in circulating T
regulatory cells supposed to be primary targets of the treat-
ment was observed. However, post-treatment gene expres-
sion profiling demonstrated activation of T cells.
Phospho-flow assays using cellular bar-coding, which
allows multiplex analysis of different cell subsets sug-
gested that tremelimumab induces activation of pLck,
phosphorylated signal transducer and activator of tran-
scription (STAT)-1 in CD4 cells while phosphorylation of
STAT-5 decreases. Moreover, a decrease in phospho Erk
was observed in both CD4+ and CD14+ cells. Surpris-
ingly, the therapy affected monocytes not previously
known to be targets of anti-CTLA-4 therapy. However,
subsequent analyses demonstrated that monocytes
express CTLA-4 emphasizing the importance to study the
immune responses at a multi-factorial and unbiased level
[82-84]. In addition, an increase in IL-17-expressing CD4
T cells was observed after treatment that correlated with
autoimmune toxicity and inflammation although no
direct correlation with clinical response was noted [85].
Novel cytotoxicity assays
Cell specific assays based on ELISPOT technology or FACS
analysis are emerging that directly or indirectly character-
ize cell capability to carry effector functions. This is impor-
tant because dissociations have been described between
cytokine and cytotoxic molecule expression [86-88]. ELIS-
POT assays that detect the effector response of cytotoxic T
cells to cognate stimulation have been recently described
[89-91]. More recently, a flow cytometric cytotoxicity
assay was developed for monitoring cancer vaccine trials
[92]. The assay simultaneously measures effector cell de-
granulation and target cell death. Interestingly, as previ-
ously shown using transcriptional analyses and target cell
death estimation [86], this assay demonstrated that vac-
cine-induced T cells in patients undergoing vaccination
with the gp100 melanoma antigen do not display cyto-
toxic activity ex vivo but the cytotoxic activity could be
restored by in vitro antigen recall. These observations are
supported also by others findings that IFN- and
granzyme-B production by recently activated CD8+ mem-
ory T cells fades few days after stimulation as the immune
response contracts into the memory phase [86,93-95].
Thus, future monitoring trials should include a broader
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range of assays testing the expression/secretion of differ-
ent cytokines and cytotoxic molecules.
Imaging technologies to study trafficking
There are several examples of differences between therapy-
induced changes in the tumor microenvironment com-
pared with the peripheral circulation [20,96-98]. Ribas,
proposed the study of the kinetics of anti-tumor immune
responses in vivo using PET-based molecular imaging [99]
expanding the analysis of immune conjugate kinetics for
pharmacokinetics studies and visualization of lymphoid
organs [100,101]. Tools to evaluate the function of lym-
phoid tissue or other components of the tumor microen-
vironment are critical to assess the dynamic of response to
anti-CTLA4 therapy and, likely, other forms of immuno-
therapy. Tumors do not decrease in size and may even
increase due to inflammation and necrosis in the early
phases of anti-ACTL-4 treatment and, therefore, tumor
size is not a reliable predictor of response. However, 18F-
FDG was a useful early marker of response demonstrating
increased glycolitic activity by activated immune cells
Proteomic approaches
High throughput reverse phase protein microarrays
(RPMA) for signal pathway profiling
Global profiling of protein activation is an important tool
for the understanding of the signaling response to
immune stimulation. Julia Wulfkuhle (George Mason
University, VA, USA) described novel proteomics
approaches that could be particularly useful for immune
A clear example is the complexity of the response to type
I IFNs. It is becoming increasingly appreciated that signal-
ing down-stream of type I IFNs is more complicated than
predicted by the reductionist Jak/STAT model [103,104].
In highly controlled experimental settings we could not
demonstrate a direct quantitative relationship between
STAT-1 phosphorylation and activation of interferon-
stimulated genes (ISGs) (Pos et al. manuscript in prepara-
tion); a deeper characterization of interactions among
STAT dimers [105] and among alternative pathways is
necessary to fully understand the mechanisms of IFN-
induced responses and their relationship with TSD [103].
RPMA provide the opportunity to study the phosphoryla-
tion states of hundreds of signaling molecules at the same
time and potentially provide better characterization of the
mechanisms controlling downstream transcription fol-
lowing cytokine stimulation [17,106-108]. Although
most studies performed with these arrays were limited to
the understanding of transformed cell biology, it is possi-
ble to apply these technologies to cellular subsets
obtained from the peripheral circulation or from tumor
tissues during immunotherapy trials. While the RPMA
technology allows for the analysis of hundred of proteins
at the time, it is not cell-specific and special precautions in
the preparation of samples are necessary such as laser cap-
ture microdissection or cell sorting for single cell popula-
tions. Gary Nolan's group at Stanford, has developed a
conceptually similar approach for the study of signaling
pathways at the cellular level that utilized multi-color
FACS analysis [83,109,110]. However, multi-color FACS
analysis is limited to the analysis of only a dozen end-
points at once while RPMA analysis provides measure-
ments of 150–200 signaling proteins with the same
starting cell number. Either of these approaches is likely to
provide comprehensive functional information about the
status of activation and responsiveness of immune cells
during immunotherapy.
Tissue handling processing can affect the status of
phosphoproteins – novel molecular fixatives
Following procurement the tissue remains alive and is
subject to hypoxic and metabolic stress while being trans-
ported or reviewed by the pathologist prior to freezing or
formalin fixation. Time taken to obtain and preserve
material, concentration of endogenous enzymes, tissue
thickness and penetration time, storage temperature,
staining and preparation; all of these factors can directly
affect the phosphorylation status of a protein [111] and
the expression of the protein as well as messenger RNA
levels [112]. During the delay time prior to molecular sta-
bilization the kinase pathways are active and reactive.
Consequently, in order to stabilize phosphoproteins dur-
ing the pre-analytical period it is necessary to inhibit the
activity of kinases as well as phosphatases. Use of perme-
ability enhancers can potentially change the speed of tis-
sue phosphoproteins activation and phosphatase and
kinase inhibitors can stop this process ; these novel fixa-
tives are becoming commercially available.
Biomarker harvesting using nano-particles
"Smart" core shell affinity bait nano-porous particles
amplify the concentration of a given analyte [113]. The
analyte molecule binds to high affinity bait inside the par-
ticle. The analyte is concentrated because all of the target
analyte is removed from the bulk solution and concen-
trated in the small volume of nanoparticles. Concentra-
tion factors can excide 100 fold. Different chemical
"baits" are used to capture different kind of proteins based
on charge or other biochemical characteristics. The size of
the nanoparticles shell pores determines the protein size
cutoff that can enter the particle. Biomarkers, chemokines
or cytokines can be separated from larger proteins present
at much higher concentrations. In addition, the binding
to the bait stabilizes the captured analyte protein against
degradative enzymes. This approach may be particularly
useful for the study of serum cytokines which are, even at
bioactive levels, at concentrations below the threshold of
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detection of most non antibody-based methods
Computational Approaches
Computational models of the immune system can pro-
vide additional tools for understanding and predicting
response to immunotherapy. Doug Lauffenburger devel-
oped a set of mechanism-based models to predict in vitro
behavior of immune system cells through a quantitative
analysis of receptor-ligand binding and trafficking
dynamics [116]. Extending this approach to clinical appli-
cations, Immuneering Corporation is developing mode-
ling technology to analyze measurements taken from
patient samples, and preparing proof of concept trials to
assess the responsiveness of melanoma and renal cell car-
cinoma patients to IL-2 therapy. Advanced techniques for
the validation of computational models have also been
developed [117]. Among them, the modular analysis of
disease-specific transcriptional patterns developed by
Chaussabel et al [118,119] holds promise to represent an
important tool to comprehensively follow the modula-
tion of immune responses during therapy (see later).
Emerging concepts in biomarker discovery; the
state of the science
Signatures from the tumor microenvironment
Most presentations by US participants discussed the
immune biology of cutaneous melanoma as a prototype
of cancer immunotherapy; most Japanese presentations (a
Country with limited prevalence of melanoma) discussed
other cancers. Thus, while cutaneous melanoma provided
a paramount model to discuss cancer immune biology,
other cancers offered an overview at potential expansion
of emerging concepts to other diseases (i.e. common solid
cancers) and other ethnic groups (the Asian population)
[120]. Though disease- or population-specific patterns
were observed, commonalities were identified that sup-
port the hypothesis of a constant mechanism that leads to
TSD [121].
From the delayed allergy reaction to the immunologic
constant of rejection
In 1969, Jonas Salk suggested that the delayed hypersensi-
tivity reaction of the tuberculin type, contact dermatitis,
graft rejection, tumor regression and auto-allergic phe-
nomena such as experimental allergic encephalomyelitis
were facets of a single entity that he called "the delayed
allergy reaction [122]. Expanding on this argument, we
proposed that tumor rejection represents an aspect of a
broader phenomenon responsible for TSD that occurs
also in autoimmunity, clearance of pathogen-infected
cells or allograft rejection [121,123-125]. Transcriptional
studies done in humans at the time when tissues transi-
tion from a chronic lingering inflammatory process to an
acute one leading to TSD point to common mechanisms
that are activated during immunotherapy against cancer
or chronic viral infections or dampened when inducing
tolerance of self in autoimmunity or of allografts in trans-
plantation. This theory emphasizes the need to deliver
potent pro-inflammatory stimuli in the target tissue. Anti-
gen-specific effector-target interactions are not sufficient
to induce TSD but rather act as triggers to induce a broader
activation of innate and adaptive immune responses.
Given a conducive microenvironment, these responses
can expand to an acute inflammatory process inclusive of
several effector mechanisms. Thus, immunotherapy
should amplify the inflammatory processes induced by
tumor-specific T cells within the tumor microenviron-
Interferon-stimulated genes (ISGs) – Some ISGs are more
significant than others
Comparisons of transcriptional studies performed by var-
ious groups in human tissues undergoing acute (but not
hyper-acute) rejection suggests that TSD encompasses at
least two separate components: the activation of ISGs and
the broader attraction and in situ activation of innate and
adaptive immune effector functions (IEF) mediated by a
restricted number of chemokines and cytokines. While
the ISGs are consistently present during rejection, IEFs
may vary according to the model system studied. Exam-
ples include the acute inflammatory process inducing
regression of melanoma metastases during IL-2 therapy
[20,126] or basal cell cancer by Toll-like receptor-7 ago-
nists [21]. The same signatures are observed in acute but
not in chronic HCV infection leading to clearance of path-
ogen [127-129] and in acute uncontrollable kidney allo-
graft rejection [130]. Furthermore, activation of ISGs is a
classic signature associated with systemic lupus erythema-
tosus and tightly correlates with the severity of the disease
[118,131,132]. Moreover, coordinate expression of spe-
cific ISGs such as IRF-1 linked with the induction of adap-
tive Th1 immune responses with genes mediating
cytotoxicity and the CXCL-9 through -11 chemokines has
been associated with better prognosis in colorectal cancer
[133-135]. Interestingly, similar results are observable in
experimental mouse models. According to the linear
model of T cell activation, ISGs and IEFs activation is short
lasting and is rapidly followed by a contraction phase
[93]; the signatures associated with the acute phase can be
observed within the tumor microenvironment during
adaptive and/or innate immunity-mediated tumor regres-
sion [136,137].
It should be emphasized that the expression of ISGs is
necessary but not sufficient for the induction of TSD as it
is observed also in chronic inflammatory processes that
do not lead to TSD [121]. However, the definition of ISGs
in itself is vague and refers to a large repertoire of genes
that may be activated by type I IFNs in various conditions
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depending upon the type of cell stimulated and the con-
ditions in which the stimulus is provided [138]. Although
canonical ISGs (those stimulated by type I IFN) are regu-
larly observed during TSD, it appears that those most spe-
cifically associated with TSD but not chronic
inflammatory processes are ISGs downstream of IFN-
stimulation such as interferon-regulatory factor (IRF)-1
[139-141] and STAT-1 [105]. Importantly, IRF-1 specifi-
cally promotes IL-15 expression [139], which is central to
the induction of TSD [137]. IRF-3 is also commonly acti-
vated during TSD; IRF-3 is responsible for the over-expres-
sion of CXCL-9 through -11 and CCL5 chemokines [139]
which also play a central role in TSD. This signature of
acute inflammation are in contrast with the indolent
inflammatory process that fosters cancer growth and ham-
pers immune responses [123,142-146]; in particular, the
extensive expression of immune-inhibitory mechanisms
during tumor progression [147] dramatically contrast
with the picture observed during TSD and emphasizes the
need to study the tumor microenvironment at relevant
moments when the switch from chronic to acute inflam-
mation occurs [148-150].
Chemokines, cytokines and effector molecules
The comparative approach described so far [124] suggests
that TSD is determined by the expression of a limited
number of genes generally associated with Th1 immune
responses. Among them IL-15 and its own receptors play
a central role in clinical and experimental models of
tumor rejection [21,137,151]. Together with IL-15 the
chemokines CCL5/RANTES and CXCL-9/Mig -10/IP-10
and -11/I-TAC are consistently present during TSD and
probably serve as central attractors of CXCR3 and CCR5-
expressing effector T and NK cells [152]. In particular,
CD8 T cell infiltration to inflamed areas such as the cere-
brospinal fluid in multiple sclerosis [153], atherosclerotic
plaques [154] or allografts [155,156] is predominantly
mediated by CXCR3 ligand chemokines, which also play
a central role in tumor rejection. This observation colli-
mates with a recent report suggesting that CXCR3 expres-
sion in CTL is associated with survival benefit in the
context of melanoma [157]. This finding could be
explained by the heavy lymphocyte infiltration present in
melanoma metastases expressing of CXCR3 ligand chem-
okines such as CXCL9/Mig [158] and CXCL10/Ip-10
[159]. A finding recently confirmed by independent inves-
tigators [160]. Interestingly, CCL5/Rantes and IFN- were
also reported to predict immune responsiveness during
GSK/MAGE-A3 immunotherapy [12]. Moreover, the role
played by CCL5/RANTES is suggested by the weight that
CCR5 polymorphism plays in the prognosis of melanoma
[161]. More recently, Kalinski et al [162] proposed the uti-
lization of DCs conditioned to drive the development of
immune responses toward Th-1 immunity by condition-
ing DC with a mixture of polycytidylic acid (poly-I:C),
IFN- and IFN-. These DCs express CXCR3 and CCR-5
ligands that promote the chemotaxis and in situ expansion
of effector cytotoxic T cell phenotype. Additionally, these
DCs repress the expansion of T regulatory cells since they
do not express the CXCR4 ligand chemokine CCL22/
MDC [163,164]. Most importantly, these DC can regulate
T cell homing properties. This is explained by the three
wave model of myeloid and plasmacytoid DC production
of chemokines [165]; upon viral stimulation, DC secrete
in the first 2 to 4 hours chemokines potentially attracting
a broad range of innate and adaptive effectors cells such as
neutrophils, cytotoxic T cells, and natural killer cells
CXCL16); in a second phase lasting between 8 and 12
hours, they secrete chemokines that attract activated effec-
tor memory T cells (and to a lesser degree NK cells)
(CXCL8/IL-8, CCL3/MIP-1, CCL4/MIP-1, CCL5/
RANTES, CXCL9/Mig, CXCL10/IP-10 and CXCL11/I-
TAC); finally, the third resolving wave occurs 24 to 48
hours following stimulation producing chemokines that
attract regulatory T cells (CCL22/MDC) or naïve T and B
lymphocytes in lymphoid organs (CCL19/MIP-3 and
CXCL13/BCA-1). Possibly, the intensely pro-inflamma-
tory IFN and poly-I:C-based conditioning prolongs the
acute phase of DC activation and the same may occur in
vivo during the acute inflammatory process leading to
Pre-clinical models also clearly underline the central role
that CXCR3 ligand chemokines play in recruiting acti-
vated effector T cells and NK cells at the tumor site. In par-
ticular, oncolytic viral therapy was recently shown to
induce powerful anti-cancer immune responses that are
centrally mediated by CXCL-9/Mig, -10/IP-10, -11/I-TAC
and CCL5/RANTES. Similar results were obtained deliver-
ing oncolytic herpes simplex virus in a syngeneic model of
ovarian carcinoma [166] or by the systemic administra-
tion of vaccinia virus colonizing selectively human tumor
xenografts [137].
Location, orientation and organization of the immune
Jérôme Galon, Franck Pagès, Marie-Caroline Dieu-Nos-
jean and Wolf-Hervé Fridman have analyzed the immune
infiltrates in large cohorts of colorectal and non small cell
lung cancers. High densities of T cells with a TH1 orienta-
tion and high numbers of CD8 T cells expressing perforin
and granulysin, enumerated at the time of surgery, appear
to be the strongest prognostic factor (above TNM staging)
for disease free and overall survival, at all stages of the dis-
ease [133,134]. Genes associated with adaptive immunity
(i.e. CS3, ZAP70) TH1 orientation (i.e. T-bet, IFN, IRF-1)
and cytotoxicity (i.e. CD8, granulysin) correlated with low
levels of tumor recurrence whereas that of genes associ-
ated with inflammation or immune suppression did not
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[134]. The immune responses needed to be coordinated
both in terms of location (center of the tumor and inva-
sive margin (2)) and of orientation with memory and
TH1 but not TH2, lack of immune suppression, and in
terms of inflammation or angiogenesis [167]. Moreover,
in the few patients with high T cells infiltration who pre-
sented with metastasis at the time of diagnosis, there was
a loss of effector/memory T cells in the tumor [141]. Adja-
cent to the tumors, some patients presented with tertiary
lymphoid structures containing germinal center – like
structures composed of mature dendritic cells, CD4 and
CD8 lymphocytes and activated B cells, a likely place for a
local immune reaction to be generated [168]. This finding
supports a potential helper role that B cells may play in
the recruitment and activation of effector T cells [169].
The resemblance of tertiary lymph nodes were particularly
evident in early stage cancers [133,168] and the enumera-
tion of memory TH1 (IFN-producing) and CD8 (granu-
lysin producing) T cells in the center and invasive margin
of human tumors should become part of the prognostic
setting of human tumors [167,170]. This recommenda-
tion is also based on concordant observations extended to
several other tumors [171-176].
Signatures from circulating immune cells and soluble
Bernard Fox emphasized the need for a comprehensive
approach to the characterization of immune responses
that trespasses the simple enumeration of tumor antigen-
specific T cells. Characterization by 8 color flow cytometry
of vaccine-induced T cells in patients with melanoma vac-
cinated with the gp100 melanoma antigen demonstrated
a wide range of functionality that spanned from different
avidity for target antigen, to different levels of tumor-
induced CD107 mobilization [177]. Importantly, it was
noted that vaccine-induced T cells do not acquire in the
memory phase enhanced functional avidity usually asso-
ciated with competent memory T-cell maturation; these
data suggest that other vaccine strategies are required to
induce functionally robust long-term memory T cell func-
tion [178]. Concordant results have been previously
reported by Monsurró et al. [86] by profiling the transcrip-
tional patterns of vaccine-induced memory T cells; a qui-
escent phenotype was observed that required in vitro
antigen recall plus IL-2 stimulation to recover full effector
function. Similar observations have been also recently
reported by others [94,95]. Thus, vaccination is not suffi-
cient to produce effector cells qualitatively and quantita-
tively capable to induce cell-mediated TSD unless a
secondary reactivation is provided at the receiving end by
combination therapy [179].
Damien Chaussabel (Baylor Institute for Immunology,
Dallas, Texas, USA) summarized his work profiling circu-
lating peripheral blood mononuclear cell (PBMC) adopt-
ing a modular analysis framework to reduce the
multidimensionality of array data. This strategy enhances
the visualization through the reduction of coordinately
expressed transcripts into functional units [118,119].
With this approach, PBMCs display a disease-specific pat-
tern; individuals with a given disease bear transcriptional
fingerprints that are qualitatively and quantitatively
related to the severity of the disease. The modular process
has been successfully used to identify patients at high risk
for liver transplant rejection. It is interesting that a similar
approach was recently described by others to identify
patients with HCV infection likely to respond to IFN-
therapy; analysis of PBMC signatures ex vivo and their
responsiveness to IFN- stimulation was a predictor or
clinical outcome [180]. More recently the Baylor group, in
collaboration with John Kirkwood has expanded this
approach to the monitoring of patients with melanoma
treated by active specific immunization; preliminary
observations identified baseline differences among
patients and enhancement of IFN-modular activity fol-
lowing treatment.
Immunologic differences between patients with cancer
and non-tumor bearing individuals were conclusively
confirmed by the work of Peter Lee (Stanford University,
Stanford, California, USA) [181,182]; PBMCs from
patients with melanoma and other solid cancers [183] dis-
play strongly reduced responsiveness to IFN- stimula-
tion that can be measured by intra-cellular staining for
phosphorylated STAT-1 protein. Gene expression profil-
ing of lymphocytes from patients with Stage IV melanoma
identified 25 genes differentially expressed in T and B cells
of cancer patients compared with carefully selected nor-
mal controls; of the 25 genes, 20 were ISGs among which
CXCL9–11, STAT-1, OAS and MX-1 were included; all of
them are critical component of the immunologic constant
or rejection ([121,137] and were down-regulated in can-
cer patients. The top 10 genes could separate melanoma
patients from healthy individuals in self-organizing clus-
tering. Phosphorilation of STAT-1 is a primary component
of IFN-signaling and, therefore, a phospho-assay was
developed. Originally T cells were found to be predomi-
nantly affected but with more cases studied also B cells
were recognized as affected [183]. PBMCs from patients
with breast cancer demonstrated the same difference in
STAT-1, IFI44, IFIT1, IFIT2, and MX1 expression and were
similarly unresponsive to IFN- stimulation. The same
results were observed in patient with gastrointestinal can-
cers where the same effects could be observed in T, B and
NK cells. IFN- induced phosphorilation is only affected
in B-cells, while very little dynamic response is seen in T
cells and NK cells. This may be related to a dynamic alter-
ation of IFN- receptor in various stages of T cell activation
[184]. These alterations appear already at STAGE II of dis-
ease and continue as the disease progresses. It is not
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known whether other signaling defects are present in
these cells. This is possible considering the reported alter-
nations of T cell receptor signaling described in the past by
others [185-187] and in general altered T cell function in
circulating and/or tumor infiltrating lymphocytes
[86,147,179,187]. Indeed, also in Lee's study a decrease in
expression of CD25, HLA-DR, CD54 and CD95 was
observed. Most recently, STAT-1 phosphorylation analysis
was applied to patients undergoing immunotherapy with
high-dose IFN- and preliminary results suggest that
responding patients display a modest but significant
STAT-1 phosphorylation in CD4 and CD8 T cells. Thus,
IFN signaling may predict clinical response to high dose
IFN therapy and should be considered a novel tool for
patient monitoring during clinical trials. It is surprising to
observe that the analysis of a single pathways (STAT-1) is
such a powerful biomarker of immune responsiveness
considering the complexity of the JAK/STAT family inter-
actions and their mutual modulation [105,188]. How-
ever, it is remarkable that the STAT-1/IRF-1/IL-15 axis is a
central component of TSD confirming its relevance to can-
cer rejection. The general immune suppression of cancer
patients had been previously described by other studies,
for instance, Heriot et al [189] observed that monocytes
from patients with colorectal cancer produce low levels of
IFN- and TNF- in response to LPS stimulation com-
pared with matched healthy donors. Interestingly, as
observed by Lee at al [183], such depression of innate
immune responses were observed at early stage in patients
with Duke's A and B.
Basic insights about cancer immune biology
Much can be learned in human immunology by a com-
parative method that looks at immunological phenom-
ena with an interdisciplinary approach [124]. The
relevance of IFN signatures in the context of various dis-
eases represents a good example. He et al [180] observed
that decreased IFN signaling and decreased ex vivo respon-
siveness of PBMCs to IFN- stimulation were harbingers
of non-responsiveness of HCV-infected patients to sys-
temic administration of pegylated IFN- and Ribavarin.
These differences were interpreted as related to the genetic
background of patients as it was observed that PBMCs
from patients of African American (AA) origin were least
likely to respond to IFN- stimulation ex vivo and to
recover from hepatitis compared to patients of European
American (EA) background. This observation raises the
question of whether patients with melanoma or HCV that
have better changes to respond to therapy are character-
ized by a different genetic background compared to those
likely to do poorly. A recent analysis performed in our lab-
oratories (Pos et al. in preparation) failed to demon-
strated dramatic differences between the responses of the
two ethnic groups to IFN- (see later). Thus, alterations in
IFN signaling are likely to represent a secondary effect due
to the presence of cancer cells or viral particles that in turn
may interfere with the innate immune response of the
host. This being the case, it will be likely in the future that
more insights about the mechanisms leading to altered
IFN signaling in cancer patients will be gathered by a more
in depth analysis of cancer biology and the products
released by cancer cells that may affect immune cells activ-
ity locally and at the systemic level.
Indeed tumors, including melanoma, display strong dif-
ferences in the expression of ISGs [190,191], which are
coordinately associated with the expression of several
chemokines, cytokines, growth and angiogenic factors
[190,192]. Moreover, the presence of immune activation
has been associated with the prognosis of melanoma
[193]. Thus, it is likely that melanoma and other cancers
express an immune modulatory phenotype that may alter
not only their own microenvironment but whose effects
can reverberate at the systemic level. Whether these differ-
ences are due to distinct disease taxonomy [194] or to dis-
ease progression [126,190] remains to be clarified.
Mohammed Kashani-Sabet proposed a model that may
explain the dichotomy observed in the biological pattern
of melanomas. Studying check points in the progression
of melanoma, it was observed that BRAF mutations occur
early in the development of the disease and do not
account for the switch to an increasingly more aggressive
phenotype. Transcriptional analysis was performed to
compare radial to vertical growth, which identified pre-
dominantly loss of gene expression [195,196]. Two sub-
types of melanoma were identified that could not be
segregated only on account of BRAF mutations. Rather,
modifiers associated with the vertical growth phase
included immune regulatory genes such as IFI16, CCL2
and 3, CXCL-1, -9 and -10. These genes are up regulated in
primary melanoma compared with nevi but become
down-regulated in the metastatic phase in some but not
all melanomas [195], a phenomenon we had previously
observed comparing the transcriptional profile of
melanoma metastases to normal melanocytes [190] and
other cancers [192]. A multi-marker diagnostic assay for
melanoma was developed [197]; a large training set of tis-
sue microarrays with 534 samples including nevi and
melanoma biopsies was validated on 4 independent test
sets and found ARPC2, FN1, RGS1, SSP1 and WNT2 to be
over-expressed in melanoma compared with nevi. Based
on the 5 markers, a diagnostic algorithm was developed
that could differentiate with high accuracy and specificity
benign from malignant lesions [197]. The markers were
also evaluated on independent cohorts including the Ger-
man Cancer Registry (Heidelberg/Kiel cohort). The multi-
marker approach tested at several stages of disease could
predict sentinel node status and disease specific survival
(p < 0.001). The multi-marker score demonstrated higher
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accuracy than lesion depth or ulceration. A molecular
map of melanoma progression is being built from
melanocyte to various growth phases and metastatization
and will be evaluated in the ECOG data set. Although this
algorithm does not directly address the immune respon-
siveness of tumors, it will be important to include such
information for patient stratification in future clinical tri-
als to interpret immunotherapy results.
Constitutive activation of immune regulatory mechanism
was also reported by Yutaka Kawakami, who discussed the
molecular mechanisms of cancer cell induced immune-
suppression and their potential as biomarkers of respon-
siveness to immunotherapy. In particular, regulatory
mechanisms dependent on the MAPK, WNT and BRAF
mutations were discussed. BRAF and NRAS mutations
occur early in melanoma [198]. Kawakami reported that
inhibition of BRAF or STAT-3 depleted the expression of
several cytokine including IL-6, CXCL8/IL-8 and IL-10 by
cancer cells. Also a MEK inhibitor blocked the expression
of IL-10. Finally, VEGF expression was inhibited by small
interference RNA (siRNA) for ERK1/2. In vivo studies,
observed that inhibition of ERK induced the enhance-
ment of T cell responses and protection of mice from can-
cer [199]. Considering the recently described role of VEGF
as a negative predictor of immune responsiveness of
melanoma metastases to high dose IL-2 therapy [9] and a
poor prognostic marker of survival in colorectal cancer
[141], it is possible that this observation may provide an
important target for a combination therapy for VEGF
expressing melanomas. In particular, the melanoma cell
line, 888-MEL previously extensively characterized
[200,201] was found to be sensitive to MEK inhibition.
Moreover, Kawakami reported that IL-10 production is
strictly dependent (in this cell line) upon the expression
of -catenin a mutation inducing enhanced activation of
the WNT pathway [202]. Transfection of -catenin
induced production of IL-10; moreover, culture of DC
with supernatant of melanoma cells with high  catenin
induces IL-10-producing DC and it was decreased by
siRNA blockade of -catenin. Functionally, T cells pro-
duced less TNF- when stimulated with DC cultured with
supernatant from -catenin positive melanomas and
expressed higher levels of FOX P3. In a xenogenic model,
the human melanoma cells 397-MEL that do not express
constitutively high levels of activated -catenin, were
transfected to produce IL-10. Upon antigen exposure T
cells were observed to produce less IFN- and display low-
ered lytic activity in animals implanted with the IL-10
expressing tumors. However, IL-10 blocking antibodies
did not reverse the tolerogenic effect suggesting that a
more complicated mechanism is responsible for the effect
on T cells than the direct activity of IL-10. Of interest is the
relationship between IL-10 expression and responsive-
ness. The high expression of IL-10 by 888-MEL contrasts
with the observation that this cell line was derived from a
patient who dramatically responded to immunotherapy
and was a long-term survivor [203]. However, the per-
ceived immune suppressive role of IL-10 may be more
complex than previously reported. We observed, that IL-
10 expression by melanoma cells studied in pre-treatment
biopsies is a positive predictor of tumor responsiveness to
immunotherapy with high-dose IL-2 [126,204,205];
moreover, the majority of pre-clinical models in which
the effect of IL-10 was evaluated as a modulator of tumor
responsiveness identified this cytokine as a factor favoring
tumor regression suggesting a dual role of IL-10 promot-
ing growth in natural conditions but favoring tumor rejec-
tion upon immune stimulation [206]. Kawakami's work
may shed light on this paradoxical observation; screening
of siRNA against 800 kinases was done to identify which
are involved in immune suppression; it was found that
STKX kinase inhibits IL-10 and TGF- production. Moreo-
ver, epithelial-mesenchymal transition is induced by
SNAIL transfection, which also induces IL-10, VEGF and
TGF- and, in co-culture with human PBMCs, induces
FOX-P3 expression. Co-culture of PBMCs with melanoma
cells transfected with SNAIL increases the number of FOX-
P3-expressing T cells and this is also reversed by SNAIL/
TSP (downstream of SNAIL) blockade. Blocking SNAIL
expression by tumors with siRNA induced increase in
CD4 and CD8 T cells, thus in vivo SNAIL may be involved
in immune suppression. Similar results can be obtained
by anti-TSP1 which can induce better T cell infiltrates.
SNAIL transfected melanoma is resistant to immuno-
therapy in mouse models and may represent a new predic-
tive biomarker of tumor responsiveness to immune
therapy [43].
Host's genetics vs cancer genetics; the riddle of
tumor immunology
The relative contribution of the genetic background of the
host, the genetic instability of cancer and the effects of the
environment on the natural history of cancer is complex.
A good example is nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC),
which predominantly affects specific geographic areas and
ethnicities, in particular the Asian Population [207-210].
NPC etiology is clearly linked to Epstein-Barr virus (EBV)
infection [211] and the immune response to the EBV
infection appears to bear a strong influence in both the
natural history of the disease and response to therapy
[207,212-218]. A recent observation linked elevated VEGF
secretion by the tumor tissue to outcome; in that study,
high VEGF secretion correlated with decreased survival.
The reason for the prevalence of NPC in specific ethnic
groups remains to be conclusively explained but there is
evidence that the genetic background of the host plays an
important role in familiar and sporadic cases [209-
211,218-230]. However, as for most disease etiologies
that are influenced by numerous genes, the genetic deter-
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minants of disease prevalence and clinical outcome are
still not fully understood [231-238]. In particular, cancer
immune responsiveness can be influenced by either the
genetic background of the host's or by disease heterogene-
ity [1,239]. Few lines of evidence suggest that the genetic
make up of patients may affect the natural history of can-
cer or its responsiveness to therapy; a polymorphism of
the IFN- gene was associated with responsiveness to com-
bination therapy with IL-2 therapy and chemotherapy
[240]. Others found that variants of CCR5 are predictors
of survival in patients with melanoma receiving immuno-
therapy [161]. More recently, the responsiveness to IFN-
therapy in melanoma was found to be associated with
autoimmune disease which in turn could be related to
genetic predisposition [241,242]. Recently, Dudley et al
[8] reported that the adoptive transfer of tumor-infiltrat-
ing lymphocytes with shorter telomeres was associated
with a strongly decreased chance of clinical response;
although this effect has been explained by a senescent
phenotype of lymphocytes, it is possible that genetic vari-
ations in the ability to conserve telomere length could be
responsible for differences among patients as previously
observed for other instances [243-245].
In a broader sense, the heterogeneous response to IFN-
observed among patients with either cancer [182,183] or
HCV [180,246,247] can be plausibly explained by inher-
ited genetic predispositions that determine the respon-
siveness to this cytokine. It has been proposed that single
nucleotide polymorphisms in the IFN pathway are associ-
ated with the response to IFN- therapy of HCV [248].
Moreover, ISG polymorphisms have been associated with
other immune pathologies and differences in the preva-
lence of IRF and STAT gene polymorphisms have been
associated with the prevalence of systemic lupus ery-
thematosus in AA [249,250]. Alternatively, racial differ-
ences in the responsiveness to a given treatment may
come from effects that the disease exerts on the host's
immune cells, and from differences to environmental
exposures. Thus, AA may be genetically less protected
against HCV infection for reasons unrelated to IFN-
activity; yet, the higher viral load or other factors associ-
ated with worse disease may, in turn, affect IFN-related
pathways [180,246,251,252]. Whether the genetic back-
ground determines the responsiveness to IFN- or
whether acquired differences in the disease status are
responsible for differences in the disease phenotype
among populations, can only be answered by studying
normal volunteers not bearing a disease, like cancer or
HCV, that are known to affect the immune response
[118]. Based on the observation that AA patients with
HCV infection are the least likely to respond to IFN-
stimulation, we tested whether immune cells from 48 AA
and 48 EA normal volunteers matched for age and sex
responded differently to IFN-. We compared the levels of
STAT-1 phosphorylation and global transcriptional pro-
file of T cells between the two ethnic groups. The same
subjects were genetically characterized by genome wide
single nucleotide polymorphism analysis to determine
the racial deviation of the two groups. This is an impor-
tant task considering the genetic diversity of AA and their
potential admixture with other ethnic groups [253]
Although there was clear separation among AA and EA at
the genomic levels, no clear differences could be identi-
fied at the functional level (phospho-assays or transcrip-
tional profiling, Pos et al. manuscript in preparation).
Thus, it is likely that differences observed in IFN- respon-
siveness among different individuals of distinct genetic
background or within the same ethnic group affected by
cancer or HCV may be secondary to a difference in the dis-
ease itself or a difference in the response of the host to the
disease, which may affect secondarily the host's immune
response. This observation may help interpret differences
in tumor immune biology according to race/ethnicity
reported by other groups.
Stefan Ambs (NCI, Bethesda, Maryland, USA) reported a
comparison of transcriptional patterns between AA and
EA in prostate and breast cancer [254,255]. It is notewor-
thy that AA have higher death rates from all cancer sites
combined than other US populations [256]. Ambs also
presented an example for race/ethnic differences in the
prevalence of a genetic susceptibility locus from pub-
lished reports. Several genetic variants at the 8q24 cancer
locus are most common among subjects with African
ancestry and these differences can explain some of the
excess risk of AA to develop prostate cancer. In their study,
Ambs and coworkers compared 33 AA and 36 EA macro-
dissected tumors by transcriptional analysis. Numerous
genes were differently expressed between the two patient
groups, but the biggest differences were found to be
related to genes involved in the immune response and in
particular associated with IFN signaling: IFN-, STAT1,
CXCL9–11 CCL5 CCL4 CCR7, IL-15 and -16, USG15,
Mx1, IRF-1, – 8, -2, OAS2, TAP1 and 2. These genes were
over expressed in AA suggesting that in those tumors the
cancer cells are in an anti-viral state. Interestingly, the
expression of these genes in prostate and breast cancer was
associated with resistance to chemotherapy and radiation
and in general with a worse prognosis [257] bearing the
opposite significance than the expression of similar signa-
tures in colorectal cancer [134,135,141]. Their expression
is associated with a poor prognostic connotation in the
former and a good one in the latter. An explanation for
this discordant and opposite observation is lacking. Simi-
lar differences in the tumor microenvironment were
observed by Ambs studying breast tumors and comparing
tumor stroma and micro-dissected tumor epithelium.
Those data were further validated by immunohistochem-
istry in an extended set of tissues [255]. In tumors from
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AA, an increased macrophage infiltration was observed,
using CD68 as marker, and also a higher micro vessel den-
sity, as judged by CD31 expression, when compared with
EA tumors
Xifeng Wu (MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, Texas,
USA) emphasized the need for a systematic evaluation of
genetic variants in inflammation-associated pathways as
predictors of cancer risk and clinical outcome. The evolu-
tion of epidemiologic research from traditional to molec-
ular and even more integrative epidemiology has rapidly
changed the paradigm of cancer research. The integration
of information at the pathway level is necessary because
multiple inherited alterations in gene function can have
additive effects as part of a pathway and different path-
ways can act synergistically or in antagonism. Additional
assessment of the predicted or documented functional
effects of genetic variants in the biology of disease should
also be considered in these models. Wu's hypothesizes
that the inflammatory response that plays a role in car-
cinogenesis is modulated by genetic variability. Fifty-nine
SNPs in 36 genes were analyzed. SNPs were selected at
promoter UTR or coding region segments according to the
literature. Several cytokines were selected and were stud-
ied in 1,500 lung cancer cases and 1,700 matched con-
trols. Comprehensive epidemiologic information was
obtained and 7 SNPs were found to be relevant. Among
them, IL-1 and IL-1 positively correlated with lung can-
cer prevalence in heavy smokers suggesting that deregu-
lated inflammatory response to tobacco-induced lung
damage promotes carcinogenesis [258]. Five SNPs were
associated with increased risk of developing bladder can-
cer including MCP1 and IFNAR2 and two variants of
COX2 and IL4r (the COX-2 allele was observed to be asso-
ciated with reduced mRNA expression) [259]. Interest-
ingly, an IL-6 polymorphism was associated with an
increased risk of recurrence after treatment with BCG and
with poor survival. In another study of about 400 cases of
bladed cancer of whom half experienced recurrence after
treatment, Wu and coworkers observed that the genes that
were associated with risk of developing bladder cancer
were also predictor of response; a survival analysis based
on a combination of SNPs including those related to IFN
genes could predict with a much higher accuracy risk of
recurrence compared to clinical parameters and this
observation is now under validation studying a 10,000
SNPs of which 400 belong to the already investigated
inflammation-related pathways.
Predictors of responsiveness
Although the IFN pathways seem to be central to TSD, the
large experience gained treating patients with adjuvant
melanoma with IFN- has shown limited success. John
Kirkwood (University of Pittsburgh Cancer Center, Pitts-
burgh, Pennsylvania, USA) summarized the long term
experience with this treatment emphasizing the impor-
tance of sufficiently large randomized studies to obtain
conclusive information about usefulness of therapeutics
and related biomarkers [15,242,260]. An extensive meta
analysis including all phase II trials suggested that while
in various trials different outcome biomarkers are identi-
fied these are most likely to fail validation as larger patient
cohorts are treated [15]. A recent analysis looking for pre-
dictive biomarkers in melanoma and renal cell carcinoma
[261] suggested that the ex vivo ability of IFN- to revert
STAT-1 phosphorylation signaling defects in melanoma
patients may be useful [182,183]. In addition, develop-
ment of autoimmunity during IFN- therapy is a clear pre-
dictor of a 50-fold reduction in frequency of relapse [241].
Finally, the concentration of various soluble factors in
pretreatment sera of patients undergoing IFN- therapy
suggested that the pro-inflammatory cytokines IL-1, IL-
1, IL-6, TNF- and chemokines CCL2/MIP-1 and
CCL3/MIP-1 are elevated in patients with longer relapse-
free survival [262]. Together with VEGF and fibronectin
potentially predictive of immune responsiveness to high-
dose IL-2 therapy [9], these biomarker represent candi-
date parameters for validation in future trials. High VEGF,
together with high IL-6 levels have also been reported as
negative predictor of response to bio-chemotherapy
This is advancement from previous analyses in which the
majority of putative predictors of IL-2 response were
related to post-treatment parameters [265,266]. In renal
cell carcinoma an additional biomarker has been
described, carbonic anhydrase IX, whose expression in
pre-treatment lesions may be associated with higher like-
lihood of response [267]; interestingly, carbonic anhy-
drase IX is not expressed by melanomas although they
display a similar ranges of responsiveness to IL-2 therapy,
suggesting, that this molecule may be a biomarker of a
particular phenotype associated with responsive lesions
but not the determinant of responsiveness [268]. In any
case, further validation, together with a better understand-
ing of the biology of these tumors will hopefully enhance
the usefulness of these candidate biomarkers.
It has recently been shown that treatment with anti CTLA-
4 antibodies can induce clinical responses in few patients
previously vaccinated with irradiated, autologous granu-
locyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF)-
secreting cancer cells [269]. However, a large phase III
study on hormone refractory prostate cancer-bearing
patients treated with the same vaccine (but not anti-CTLA-
4 antibody) failed to demonstrate effectiveness leading to
early termination of the clinical protocol [270,271].
Masahisa Jinushi (The University of Tokyo, Tokyo, Japan)
reported the mechanisms hampering vaccine effectiveness
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and the potentials for combining anti-CTLA-4 therapy. It
was observed that GM-CSF-deficient mice are defective in
apoptotic cell phagocytosis and develop autoimmune
manifestations including pulmonary alveolar proteinosis,
SLE, insulitis and diabetes [272]. GM-CSF transduction
restores the production of cytokines that regulate T helper
cell differentiation (TGF-, IL-1b IL-4 IL-12p70 and IL-
23p19) in response to apoptotic cells. GM-CSF regulates
the phagocytosis of apoptotic cells by antigen presenting
cells and modulates the function of the phagocyte recep-
tors milk fat globule EGF 8 (MGF-E8), a protein secreted
at high levels by melanomas during the vertical growth
phase. MGF-E8 has pleiotropic functions in the tumor
microenvironment including promoting cancer cell sur-
vival, invasion and immune suppression. While GM-CSF
regulates T helper cell differentiation by MFG-E8, TLR
stimulation suppresses MFG-E8 production by antigen
presenting cells resulting in increased allo-mixed lym-
phocyte reaction in apoptotic cell loaded macrophages-
driven splenocytes proliferation [272]. Blockade of MFG-
E8 in tumor cells potentiates GVAX therapeutic immunity
in the B16 mouse melanoma model. GVAX/RGE (inhibi-
tor of MFG-E8) vaccines decreases Tregs and decreases
tumor specific CD8+ T cell effectors with decrease of
FoxP3 and increase in CD69 expressing CD8 T cells [273].
MFG-E8 expression in melanoma patients with advanced
stage is high and not detected in non advanced stage
melanoma and nevi [274]. Thus, MFG-E8 might be con-
sidered a negative regulator of GVAX induced immunity
by regulating Treg/Teff balance. It is a prognostic factor
and may predict response to GVAX and possibly other
types of immunotherapy as recently shown by Aloysius el
al [275] with various cancers vaccinated with hTERT pep-
tide-pulsed DCs and by Tatsumi et al. [276] in the context
of renal cell carcinoma and melanoma.
Target Selection
The NCI has shown strong interest in developing a sys-
tematic approach to the prioritization of agents to be
tested in immunotherapy trials including the type of
immune response modifier ()()[277,278] or target cancer
antigen [279]. Criteria were developed for the selection of
each agent with a non-parametric approach receiving feed
back from several investigators; however, the ideal antigen
and/or biologic modifier and their combination remain
to be defined. An ideal candidate target could be consid-
ered a protein expressed consistently by cancer initiating
cells. Sato et al. [280] described their efforts in identifying
such cells among which they describe sperm mitochon-
drial cystein rich protein and sex determining region Y
box-2 protein as potential candidate targets of immuno-
therapy. They may be used against breast cancer as their
expression correlates with poor prognosis and resistance
to chemotherapy. Identification of epitopes is underway
for HLA alleles common in the Asian population and this
novel target could be considered a potential biomarker for
patient selection. Another important target expressed by
several tumors and potentially associated with the onco-
genic process is NY-ESO, a prototype cancer/testis antigen,
which induces strong antibody and T cell responses.
Extensive work has been done in Japan on patients with
esophageal and other solid cancers [281]. NY-ESO was
delivered as cholesterol-bearing hydrophobized pullulan
nano-particles that absorb the protein and express it in the
antigen presenting cells. Humoral and cellular immune
responses were elicited in 9 of 13 treated patients and clin-
ical responses were observed in 4 of 5 evaluable patients.
Several examples of antigen spreading were observed and
a restricted region of the NY-ESO protein was found to be
most immunogenic; it is suggested that, for the future,
only this region should used for immunization. This is an
example of the relevance of careful immune monitoring
related to a specific target antigen that provides insights
for the design of future clinical trials.
For gastrointestinal tumors, EpCAM, a tumor associated
antigen was proposed as a useful target in gastrointestinal
cancers. Use of anti-EpCAM may affect tumor stage and
progression. Recently a technique was developed to iso-
late circulating tumor cells using magnetic beads based on
EpCAM expression. Cancer cells were isolated from 130
cancer patients and 40 normal controls. Highly significant
differences in extractable cells were observed between can-
cer and normal patients and between patients with or
without metastatic disease. The identification of  2 circu-
lating cancer cells was associated with tumor stage, sur-
vival and pleural or peritoneal dissemination. In
esophageal cancer cell lines a proliferation assay was per-
formed showing that introduction of EpCAM increases
the expression of cyclins suggesting that EpCAM expres-
sion accelerates cell cycle and may be an important novel
target for the immunotherapy of gastrointestinal tumors.
Indeed, anti-EpCAM antibodies decrease tumor growth in
animal models and recent clinical trials have been initi-
ated [282,283]. More recently, antibody-mediated target-
ing of adenoviral vectors modified to contain a synthetic
immunoglobulin g-binding domain in the capsid was
described that could be used to target tumor-specific anti-
gens expressed on the surface of cancer cells [284].
Furthermore, attention should be put to the status of
methylation or acetylation patterns of various genes that
may directly or indirectly affect immune function either
by down-modulating the expression of putative tumor
antigens, or by interfering with immune-regulatory path-
ways [285-287].
It is becoming increasingly apparent that recurrent themes
related to the diagnosis, prognosis and responsiveness to
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therapy are emerging in the context of cancer immuno-
therapy. Although relatively unrefined, these concepts
appear to be valid as they have been reported in concord-
ance by various groups and several of the observed
biomarkers represent conceptually similar pathways
involved in tissue rejection or tolerance (Table 1).
Although, this is only a beginning, it is encouraging to see
that among the thousands of biological permutations that
could be considered at the theoretical level, direct human
observation is providing a tool to restrict the inquisitive
mind of scientists to a much more defined circle of possi-
bilities to be explored in the future.
We would like to thank Dr Raj Puri, Director, Division of Cellular and
Gene Therapies, FDA, Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research for his
participation to the meeting and the useful comments on the proceedings.
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